Monday 15 June 2020 10:37 am

Shops reopen to long queues as social distancing measures come into force

Retailers this morning flung open their doors to the public for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.

People formed long queues outside Primark outlets in London and Birmingham this morning before the shops reopened at 8am, in a signal that despite fears that footfall would be low initially, there was significant pent up demand among consumers.

Read more: Shorter hours and lots of portaloos: How London’s West End is reopening shops after lockdown

HMV owner Doug Putman told the BBC that he expected a rush in the first week of trading after his shops open their doors. 

But he said retailers could be faced with a problem if shoppers do not return in the same numbers as before the lockdown.

“If you’ve got the same cost structure to run the business but sales are down even 20 per cent it makes a lot of companies unviable.”

“We’re being very hesitant, we believe that it is going to be a tough year.” 

Social distancing measures in place

In a much-anticipated easing of the lockdown which has laid low clothes shops, book stores, and many other businesses across the country, businesses will reopen looking very different to how they were before the pandemic struck.

Many have introduced glass screens at check-outs and a limit to how many customers are allowed in-store at any one time.

Others, such as Waterstones, have brought in measures to “quarantine” any items touched by customers browsing through products.

The book seller will ask customers to put any books they have leafed through but chosen not to buy on a trolley of other books which will then be kept away from the shelves for three days.

The measure is designed to lower the risk of transmitting the virus via books.

James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones, told Sky News this morning that in shops in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the measures are already in place, “we found it perfectly straightforward” to implement.

Read more: Oxford Street braces for just 20 per cent of usual footfall when shops reopen

“It’s not a problem.”

“Customers are also coming in with a little bit more purpose,” he added. “They haven’t been in shops for a while… and they’re buying more, which is good for us.